Farmers’ Markets: Engaging Community through Food

Farmers’ Markets: Engaging Community through Food

With the spring comes a resurgence of farmers’ markets. Local farmers have been planning and growing and are now ready to bring their seasonal produce to town commons, squares, and gathering places across the region to enjoy with our families and neighbors. The experience of going to a farmers’ market exceeds the basic transaction of purchasing fresh vegetables. Farmers’ markets are places that bring a community together, affording the opportunity to support local agriculture, make healthy food choices, share stories, and connect with neighbors and farmers. Farmers’ markets are community builders, the American version of the European plaza, and are intrinsically a part of our New England culture and traditions.

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In Western Massachusetts, many farmers’ markets have expanded to not only include agricultural products but to also provide a space for local artists, crafters, performers, and teachers to make their services, knowledge, and products directly available to the community.  This type of collaborative consumption allows community members to support small businesses and individuals that directly affect the health of a small town’s economy, promoting sustainability and resilience at a local level.  Additionally, some farmers’ markets host spaces for instructors to lead workshops on topics related to homesteading, nutrition, and cooking.  The opportunity to learn at farmers’ markets through intergenerational skill-sharing makes them an important community-based educational resource that brings people together via shared interests.  Read the rest of this entry »

Farmers’ Markets: Learning through the Lens of the Season





Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a new bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening a sense of place.

Our Growing Roots: Farmers’ Markets Feed a Sense of Community

Our Growing Roots: A Market Analysis

Finding community connection at our farmers’ markets!

Next time you walk into your local supermarket, take a moment to notice the perfect symmetry of it all. Under the bright fluorescent lights, you’ll find endless rows of neatly packaged foods, ready to eat, easy to prepare, no thought required. A plethora of colors and flashy logos jump out at you, while commercial cartoon characters are strategically placed on cereal boxes and fruit snacks to lure your children into their sugary grasp. Ingredient labels are long and indiscernible and we are often unaware of where in the country or the world these products originated from. The big box grocery store landscape can give us a limited and detached sense of how food and community are related.

Personally, I have always enjoyed the unrefined simplicity of farmers’ markets. I love the atmosphere of small tables draped in mismatched cloth, crates overflowing with fresh fruits and veggies, and the sense of true community. Upon first glance, these joys are simple ones. However, farmers’ markets offer us a unique experience unrivaled by most conventional grocery stores.  Read the rest of this entry »

Oak & Acorn: Local Strawberry Smoothie

Take advantage of strawberry season!

In June, Western Mass is a blush of strawberries as harvest approaches. Don’t be afraid of buying too much as they can be frozen and used throughout the year.

It’s been really exciting the past few weeks in Western MA. Everything is growing like crazy, farmers’ markets are getting busy and the first of CSA share pick-ups are starting to happen. We are pretty lucky to live in an area where we are surrounded by such rich soil, have access to local farms and live where we can know where our food comes from. Thankfully, a good number of farms in the area also offer subsidized community agricultural shares.

One of my favorite things to see at the farmers’ market, is the abundance and variety of beautiful foods. I also appreciate the hard work that goes behind all that we see and buy at the market. It takes a lot of sweat and dedication to make these things happen.

This week at the market, I was really excited to see that it’s Strawberry season. The sweetness and beautiful rich reds in them, say enough. I usually try to get as many as I can, from either local markets, pick your own farms or from my own garden. If you ever find you have more than you need, just freeze them and use them throughout the year. I still have a few quarts of local berries in my freezer from last summer, that go well in many things. Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Farmers’ Markets in the Berkshires

Holiday Farmers’ Markets in the Berkshires

Berkshire Grown will host its popular Holiday Farmers’ Markets in Great Barrington and Williamstown on November 17 -18 and December 15 -16. The markets feature locally grown and produced food during months when farmers’ markets are not open in the region and extend the opportunity for community members to purchase directly from area food producers and farmers. (Photo credit: Peter Cherneff)

Local food isn’t only available during the growing season!  A bounty of locally grown and produced foods are available year-round in Western MA, and Berkshire Grown is making these products even easier to purchase by hosting two annual pre-holiday farmers’ markets!

“We’re thrilled to host our 4th annual farmers’ markets,” says Barbara Zheutlin, Executive Director of Berkshire Grown. “We’re extending the season for our local farmers, and offering the community an opportunity to support our local farmers and food producers. The success of these markets depends on everyone participating – we count on the community to celebrate our local food and farmers.”

There will be markets in both Great Barrington and Williamstown, taking place just before Thanksgiving and just before Christmas.  Families can stock up on local foods for their holiday meals, as well as to store for use throughout the winter…how delicious does a locavore’s Thanksgiving dinner featuring locally-grown pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, roasted Turkey, sautéed greens, apple cobbler and cider sound?!  And wouldn’t friends be excited to receive applesauce made from local apples or locally fermented pickles as a holiday gift?

Shop the array of locally grown produce and animal products, baked goods, preserves, handcrafted gift items and holiday decorations offered by local farmers and vendors at the Holiday Farmer’s Markets, and center your family’s holiday celebrations around your community! Plus have a fun time with activities for the kids at the Williamstown markets, including crafts, face painting and a scavenger hunt.

Markets will take place at Muddy Brook Elementary School in Great Barrington on Saturday, November 17th and Saturday, December 15th, and at the Williams College Field House on Sunday, November 18th and Sunday, December 16th.  All markets take place from 10am-2pm, and are sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and Williams College.  For more information visit or call 413-528-0041.

Family-Friendly Thanksgiving Holiday Farmers’ Markets in the Berkshires

Berkshire Grown Holiday Farmers’ Markets

Buy local for your Thanksgiving meal! Farmers' markets happening in the Berkshires this weekend.

Given the remarkable success of past Holiday Farmers’ Markets, Berkshire Grown will host four markets in 2011 with a north and south county presence: Thanksgiving markets will take place in Great Barrington on Saturday, November 19, and in Williamstown on Sunday, November 20. A second set of markets will take place again, both in the same locations on December 17, the Saturday before Christmas.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Bounty of Local Food and Farm Products Grows in Western MA!

UPDATE: Read about CISA’s 2011 Locally Grown: Farm Products Guide HERE.

CISA’s 2010 Locally Grown: Farm Products Guide

Let CISA help your family be a Local Hero by picking up their new 2010 "Locally Grown: Farm Products Guide" and discovering local products, farms, restaurants, retailers, and much more!

Summer is almost here, and the bounty of locally grown produce and agricultural products continues to grow. Western Massachusetts farms are geared up to provide everything from asparagus and alpaca wool to zucchini and zinnias. But where to begin your search for the best that Valley farms have to offer? With the annual Locally Grown: Farm Products Guide, a free full-color publication distributed by Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) during the week of May 24th.

This year’s Guide contains more than 60 pages of farm and local agricultural products listings, including 202 farms, 46 restaurants, 28 retailers, eight landscape and garden centers, and 24 other businesses and institutions that make, sell, or serve locally grown goods. Readers will also find a farm product seasonality calendar, a farm and garden locator map, profiles of this year’s Local Hero Award recipients, and information on the growth of the area’s local food system.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sweeten Up Your Summer With Local Fruit

Sweeten Up Your Summer

Fresh Picked Blackberries at the Amherst Farmers Market - (c) Sienna Wildfield

Fresh Picked Blackberries at the Amherst Farmers' Market - (c) Sienna Wildfield

At the height of summer, nothing is more refreshing than biting into a piece of fresh, juicy fruit. If you’ve never tried farm-fresh fruits, you owe it to yourself to go find some. Nothing compares to the taste and texture of fully ripened locally grown fruits- particularly not under-ripe fruit shipped from far off places. Thankfully, here in the Valley, there are lots of ways to fill your fruit bowl with local fruit:

As local berries and fruits ripen, finding new ways to use the abundance can be exciting. Pies, cobblers, and tarts are delicious ideas, but fresh fruit shouldn’t be limited to desserts- add them to salads, breakfasts, or get creative with savory dishes. Want to enjoy these treats year-round? Read up on preserving your fruit for the rest of the year by freezing, drying, and jam making.

You may not always notice it at the grocery store, but summer fruits have their own micro-seasons of availability, so you’ve got to scoop them up when you get the chance. Keep in mind that harvest times vary from year to year, so it is always a good idea to call ahead to be sure that the products you want are available. For a list of local fruit producers, visit our online Farm Products Guide.

And if you find that you’re competing with the fruit flies for all that local fruit on your counter, try this: squirt some dish soap into a mug, add a glug of vinegar (locally available from Apex Orchards in Shelburne), and fill with water. Flies are attracted to the vinegar, but get caught in the soapsuds, especially if you’ve eaten, or covered, any fruit in your kitchen.

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